Microsoft and Red Hat have reached a monumental agreement that enables hybrid cloud users to more easily deploy Red Hat solutions on the Microsoft Azure cloud. As a result of the collaboration, Microsoft has designated Red Hat Enterprise Linux the preferred vendor for Linux workloads on Microsoft Azure. Enterprise customers who want to use RHEL on Azure can now do so with the blessing of Microsoft’s support for RHEL on the Azure platform. In other words, customers can now deploy RHEL on Azure in ways analogous to the deployment of RHEL on Amazon Web Services. To enable this partnership, Red Hat will designate Microsoft Azure one of Red Hat’s Certified Cloud and Service Providers in upcoming weeks and meanwhile, Microsoft Azure customers can leverage Red Hat’s application platform such as Red Hat JBoss Enterprise Application Platform, Gluster and Red Hat’s Platform as a Service, OpenShift.
The collaboration between Microsoft and Red Hat further includes enterprise-grade support for hybrid cloud environments marked by the participation of support personnel from both vendors to ensure that customers obtain the support they need. The partnership also features unified workload management within hybrid cloud infrastructures enabled by the integration of Red Hat CloudForms and Microsoft Azure and the ability of System Center Virtual Machine Manager to manage RHEL on Microsoft Azure. Moreover, the collaboration includes the ability to use .NET on Red Hat products and solutions in ways that expand the ability of developers to write .NET applications on Linux applications. Whereas previously developers often had to re-write .NET applications to use them on Linux, they can now use RHEL as the principal development platform for Linux.
All told, the agreement between Microsoft and Red Hat continues to illustrate Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella’s commitment to partnering with vendors in contrast to Microsoft’s historical stance of failing to integrate with vendors and potential competitors. More importantly, the announcement illustrates Microsoft’s commitment to supporting hybrid cloud environments and its willingness to support RHEL on Azure, not only at a technological level but also at the level of integrated enterprise-grade support. All this illustrates how Microsoft is putting its eggs in the cloud basket as it attempts to consolidate its relationships with enterprises and reputation for delivering enterprise-grade products and services in anticipation of an intensification of the battle for cloud market share with Amazon Web Services. Microsoft’s strategy of focusing on rendering hybrid cloud deployments using Azure more flexible goes right to the heart of CIO considerations regarding enterprise IT cloud adoption and stands to position Azure strongly, particularly given the prevalence of RHEL within the enterprise. Expect Microsoft to continue deepening its partnership and cloud-related acquisitions as it puts the cloud first and stakes out its contention as the world’s premier cloud provider for the enterprise.
As reported by ZDNet, Microsoft is developing an open source, distributed platform designed for the creation of cloud services and big data analytics called OneNet or Prajna. OneNet specializes in interactive, big data analytics and boasts in-memory processing functionality in ways that are similar to Apache Spark. Importantly, OneNet supports both batch processing and real-time, streaming data ingestion and analytics. Unlike Spark, however, the platform can deploy cloud platforms and access them via mobile applications and distributed applications featuring in-memory key-value stores. Prajna also claims distributed programming functionality across multiple clusters and in memory sharing of data across multiple jobs. Prajna’s ability to support “multi-cluster distributed programming” differentiates it from Spark and pushes the envelope with respect to high performance distributed computing in the industry today. OneNet/Prajna specializes in a distributing computing platform across multiple clusters that can be used to build high performance, big data analytic engines while reducing the engineering costs typically associated with building distributed systems. Microsoft’s investment in OneNet comes at a time when Cloudera has recently announced a One Platform Initiative aimed at rendering Apache Spark production-ready in the form of a viable alternative to MapReduce.
On July 13, Rackspace and Microsoft announced a partnership whereby Rackspace will include Microsoft Azure within the purview of its legendary fanatical support qua professional services. Rackspace will help Azure customers optimize their Azure deployments by minimizing costs, optimizing performance and providing consultative support regarding infrastructure and application architecture, deployment and ongoing configuration and monitoring. In addition to delivering its professional services arm to Azure customers, Rackspace will offer hybrid cloud solutions that combine the Rackspace private cloud, hosted on the Microsoft Cloud Platform, featuring Azure. The availability of Rackspace’s professional services for the Azure cloud represents a huge coup for both Rackspace and Microsoft. Having struggled to keep pace with the likes of Amazon, Microsoft and Google Cloud Platform, Rackspace’s partnership with Microsoft positions it strongly to command a leadership position in the market for professional services for cloud products and services. Meanwhile, Microsoft stands to gain from Rackspace’s reputation for impeccable support and managed services that builds on Rackspace’s deep expertise with Microsoft technologies.
Within the larger context of the industry, the Rackspace-Microsoft partnership promises to tilt the momentum for IaaS-focused cloud services toward Microsoft and away from Amazon Web Services because of Rackspace’s venerable reputation for cloud-related professional services. By tapping into Rackspace’s sweet spot for fanatical support, Microsoft gives its customers the option of leveraging a professional services partner with impeccable IaaS, private cloud and managed cloud solutions credentials. All this means that Azure enterprise customers need no longer depend on internal cloud resources for their deployments but can rather reap the benefits of Rackspace consultants to accelerate the timeline for their deployments while expanding scope and complexity as needed. The deal between Rackspace and Microsoft illustrates one of the ways in which CEO Satya Nadella’s cloud experience is bearing fruit for Microsoft given its success in implementing an array of impressive partnerships that render the Azure platform open to an increasingly impressive roster of technologies and vendors. As such, the collaboration with Rackspace adds a notable feather to Microsoft’s cap that further distinguishes Azure not only from Amazon Web Services but also from the Google Cloud Platform.
Microsoft Corporation recently announced revenue of $26.5B for the quarter ending December 31, 2014. Devices and Consumer revenue constituted $12.9B while Commercial revenue, spanning cloud revenues, server products and Windows licensing grew 5% to $13.3B. Of the $26.5B in quarterly revenue, commercial cloud revenue grew to an annualized revenue run rate of $5.5B driven largely by sales of the cloud-based Office 365 product, Azure and Dynamics CRM Online. Office 365 subscribers increased to 9.2 million, search-based advertising revenue grew 23% and sales of Xbox consoles and phone-based Lumia units reached 6.6M and 10.5M respectively. Microsoft’s commercial cloud revenue projections of $5.5B indicate that its cloud revenues are increasingly competitive with Amazon, which reported revenue of $5.6B in the “Other” category for the most recent fiscal year, the vast majority of which belongs to Amazon Web Services.
This week, Microsoft announced enhancements to its encryption offerings for Outlook.com, Office 365, Azure and OneDrive. Specifically, Outlook.com is now protected by Transport Layer Security that delivers encryption support for inbound and outbound email. In addition, Microsoft has shored up its encryption capabilities in Office 365 with reference to its cloud-based platform for encrypted email messaging. Moreover, Microsoft noted that it had strengthened its encryption functionality for Azure ExpressRoute, the infrastructure that provides a direct connection to the Azure platform that bypasses the public internet. In other news, OneDrive now supports Perfect Forward Secrecy (PFS) which uses a different encryption key for each connection, rendering it more difficult for cyberattackers to decrypt connections to OneDrive. Finally, Microsoft also announced the opening of a Microsoft Transparency Center on its Redmond, WA campus that allows governments to examine the source code for its key products in order to confirm the security capabilities of Microsoft’s portfolio, particularly in the wake of international concerns about cybersecurity and espionage in the post-Snowden era.
Almost as if in response to the Amazon Fire Phone’s announcement of unlimited cloud photo storage, Microsoft announced an aggressive expansion of the limits for its cloud-based storage offerings by increasing the free quota for OneDrive from 7 GB to 15 GB on Monday. In addition, Microsoft announced that all Office 365 subscriptions will include 1 TB of cloud storage. Finally, Microsoft reduced storage prices for cloud storage independent of an Office 365 subscription by 70% such that monthly prices for 100 GB of storage are now $1.99 as opposed to $7.49 and 200 GB are $3.99 instead of $11.49. Microsoft’s pricing of free storage represents an astute move to continue its aggressive rollout of Office 365 by shifting customers to its cloud-based productivity suite in contrast to the client-based installations via download or DVD. Moreover, Microsoft continues to tout the possibilities for collaboration enabled by the cloud and as such, users are likely to see enriched collaboration functionality coming to the Office 365 suite soon. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella underscored the importance of the connection between the cloud and collaboration in a blog post by noting that “the cloud is enabling a world where you can walk up to any supported device, sign in, collaborate, communicate and share your creations with the world. Doesn’t matter what you make, where you make it or what device you use. The cloud is there to help.” Whereas Steve Jobs introduced iCloud primarily in the context of device synchronization, and the resulting operational simplicity specific to accessing the same version of every file and folder from every machine, Nadella appears to be taking things one step further by positioning the cloud as a platform fundamentally for collaboration, communication and sharing.
Given recent concerns about the security of online data related to allegations of NSA spying, Microsoft is putting its stake in the ground by noting it will take additional measures to allow customers to store cloud-based data in data centers that reside in nations of their choosing. Microsoft’s general counsel, Brad Smith, noted that “people should have the ability to know whether their data…are being subject to laws in some other country and should have the ability to make an informed choice of where their data resides.” As noted in The New York Times, Microsoft’s option of allowing customers where to store their data for select applications such as Office 365, Dynamic CRM Online and Windows Azure predates Snowden’s revelations about NSA spying. But in an interview with The Financial Times, Microsoft’s Brad Smith indicated the company would be expanding the range of options available to customers with respect to data storage as it relates to national and regional boundaries. Details of Microsoft’s plans to enhance online data storage options remain scant, so we should expect to hear more from the Seattle tech behemoth in the days to come. For now, however, Microsoft’s decision to support options for data storage outside of the NSA’s purview raises a constellation of legal and philosophical questions about the rights of data owners to selectively store data transnationally in ways analogous to the debate about the legality of foreign-held Swiss bank accounts that are immune to certain fiduciary regulations, for example.